Reading Ideas For The Weekend: You Become What You Pretend to Be, and More


Hi everyone, here are this week’s reading picks for you:

1. “You Become What You Pretend to Be“: Here is a great read on how our behavior influences our attitudes. (Or, as my friend Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project would put it, “Act the way you want to feel.”) I use this trick occasionally, and it works. I tend to channel one particular person: a woman named Peggy who gave a presentation on her work as a corporate lawyer back when I was a third year law student. I’d never for a minute considered practicing corporate law — I’d worked all my summer jobs in public interest law — until I saw Peggy in action. She was so radiant, and so breathlessly enthusiastic, about her work, that I figured there must be more to it than met the eye. Well, I haven’t practiced corporate law since 2001, but I still conjure up the memory of Peggy when I’m feeling uncertain about something.

I especially enjoyed the opening story in this article about how Michelangelo agreed to paint the Sistine Chapel even though he’d never worked with fresco before.

2.  “The Quiet Theory of Influence“: Many readers sent this to me — an interesting post from Leo Babauta, of zenhabits — on how to attract business/readers/customers by being quiet and authentic.

3. Allen Shawn, on the past in your present: Here is a beautiful, meditative piece of wisdom, from a master of such things:

“The distant past accrues innumerable new meanings and connections through the experiences of intervening years, but inside us the past is still there, as if it were occurring now. As memoirist Anne Thackeray Ritchie wrote in 1894, ‘There is often a great deal more of the past in the future than there was in the past itself at the time…one learns little by little that a thing is not over because it is not happening with noise and shape and outward sign.’ No matter how old and jaded we have become, how long our parents have been dead, or how far we have traveled from their world, inside we are still waiting for our mother to come and kiss us goodnight, holding our ears from angry outbursts, cowering from being struck, or are hoping to be rewarded for eating our vegetables with a warm hug.”

Have a wonderful weekend.




  1. Matthew Hunter on 20.08.2011 at 13:24 (Reply)

    Hi Susan. I will make sure to put The Happiness Project at the top of my reading list. Sounds like a meaningful undertaking!

    The quote “You become what you pretend to be” has power! As a leader in the peace movement, Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world” inspires me. By pretending to be peaceful in everyday life, might I actually become a true peace builder, and the world become marked by ever-greater justice? It’s in the realm of possibility at least, even for an introvert like me.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    1. Susan Cain on 20.08.2011 at 20:22 (Reply)

      Funny you mention Gandhi — I analyze his life story in my book. Did you know he was a shy introvert?

      But wait, I’m wondering why you seem to think of introversion and peace building as mutually exclusive? Is it because peace building seems to require a lot of group organizing?

      1. Matthew Hunter on 20.08.2011 at 20:55 (Reply)

        Hi Susan,
        Actually, I did not know of Gandhi’s introverted nature. Hearing of his shyness only adds to his mystique!

        Introversion and peace building are not mutually exclusive. However, the protest and lobbying sides of the role can be daunting for me at times. On the other hand, being introverted helps me maintain the appearance of calm when others might lash out in anger. This calm demeanor makes me an effective conflict mediator and reconciler on behalf of others.

        1. Susan Cain on 20.08.2011 at 21:00 (Reply)

          Oh, yes, this makes sense to me — both the challenges and the advantages you’ve pointed to.

          Yes, Gandhi was so shy that when he first started attending meetings — originally they weren’t political meetings but meetings of the local vegetarian society — he was too cowed to say a word.

  2. Christy on 20.08.2011 at 18:11 (Reply)

    What absolutely fascinating information in the first article about how your expression can alter your mood!
    Once in high school I decided to pretend I was Spock and spent the last 15 minutes or so of a class period with absolutely no expression, as impassive as possible. I found myself in a hideous mood and never did it again. However, I’m not fond of just smiling randomly to make myself happy. I’d rather read a good book by an author whose wording or subject matter delight me.
    That quote from Allan Shawn is delicious, especially the subquote from Anne Thackeray Ritchie. I dearly love how the past affects the present and future. I find I can’t much enjoy the present unless I can relate it to past and future and everything sideways.

    1. Susan Cain on 20.08.2011 at 20:26 (Reply)

      That’s interesting, Christy. I find that the act of smiling randomly produces a different kind of happiness — both more superficial and more potent — than reading a great book, which produces thoughts of love of humanity and of being alive but not smileyness exactly. Do you know what I mean?

      I also love the subquote from Anne T. Ritchie and actually thought at first of including just that quote so that it would be highlighted.

      1. Christy on 23.08.2011 at 12:06 (Reply)

        Certainly I do know what you mean. Possibly that’s why I don’t really like smiling as a way of changing my mood. It still feels rather fake. If I really want to change my mood, I go bury myself in a good book.

  3. Kayle on 25.08.2011 at 11:44 (Reply)

    I know I feel that last one daily, especially with relationships and environments. It can take DAYS forty effects of being with someone wear off and I find my center again, sometimes months. I think that’s what it’s like for intuitives, but it’s inensified by introversion. I’m not sire extroverts understand that- I don’t need to call or hear mundane details because it feels like they’re still there or I already know what they have to or would say most of the time, so no, I didn’t miss them at all.
    Which may also explain why it feels like two-day work weekends are not long enough.

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